31 January 2019
Every student was in the room by seven o’clock. None wanted to miss anything that was going to happen. The buildup had been too interesting. Each student had their bottle of drink and their song sheet that they had been asked to bring. The door was closed.
The welcome, the reminder why we were there, to celebrate Jesus’s birthday. Introduce the person to read the story. There was a very short reading and then the carol which fitted that part of the story. My tape player, (no USB sticks then!) accompanied them with the music for the song. When we got to the last song, all students were asked to stand up and shake people’s hands while singing the words, “We wish you a merry Christmas.” This of course, ensured that all the neat arrangement of the tables and stools, was thrown into turmoil.
In the front of the class, on a table, were the gifts each person had wrapped and brought. It was now my turn to tell the students that we were going to receive our gifts. How would we do that? I made some ridiculous suggestions which were shouted down. While discussing their suggestions there was a loud knock on the door. Everyone knew that no one would be let in after seven. So we went on with the matter at hand, but the knocking continued. Acting very innocently I asked one of the monitors to go and see who it was. As the monitor opened the door, there stood Fr Christmas.
The cheers and mayhem at this point was very joyful. When calm again descended I would do a surprise interview with Fr Christmas. He had a bag with a gift for each person (the sweets I’d packed). That was a surprise. He wanted to give them to the students. I made the suggestion that he could perhaps give out the gifts too, and that got a big cheer from everyone. The next hour was taken up by this activity.
We sang “Joy to the World” for him before he said goodbye to go to all the other people in the world who were waiting. As soon as he’d gone we discussed the surprise and then everyone opened their presents. Here they had been told in class, that even if you really don’t like it, look for something good and comment on that. Maybe the colour was great.
The night was finished by playing some games that involved everyone. At nine o’clock we ended the celebration and many students went back to their dorms while others stuck around to help take down decorations, etc.
Then I went home to bed.
It was usually a wonderful success, and talked about even years after I had left a school. One teacher I met some eight years later commented on it again.
And there were enquiries. I would get questions and invite the student to come to my accommodation so that we could talk about it. After that, so into the following semester, I had weekly studies to learn what that life was all about.
You ALWAYS had the right to answer questions.